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From left, Kate Steele, Stephen Caffrey and Kathryn Meisle star in Noel Coward’s “Private Lives.”
Photo courtesy of Annie Appel Photography 2006
From left, Kate Steele, Stephen Caffrey and Kathryn Meisle star in Noel Coward’s “Private Lives.”

‘Private Lives’
Tony-nominated actress among cast of romantic comedy coming to Princess

By Danielle Komis
dkomis@decaturdaily.com· 340-2447

The plot of “Private Lives” sounds like a soap opera episode or reality show escapade.

A man and his ex-wife, both on honeymoons with new mates, discover they have adjoining rooms. One thing leads to another and they run off together upon realizing why they first fell in love — and why they divorced.

The play has been entertaining audiences for more than 75 years. Prominent American playwright Noel Coward penned it in 1930.

Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts brings the bittersweet romantic comedy to Decatur on Jan. 18 as part of its Professional Series. It stars nationally known actors Kathryn Meisle of “NYPD Blue” and Stephen Caffrey of “Chicago Hope.” It is presented by L.A. Theatre Works.

Kate Steele and Al Espinosa co-star.

Coward and Gertrude Lawrence were the original stars of the 1930s version and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton played the parts in 1983.

“The play has a hilarious story line,” said Princess Executive Director Lindy Ashwander, “It’s a classic romantic kind of comedy. We think it’s a real treat for our audience to experience the talent. And it’s fun when you see somebody that you know from TV or a film that you’ve seen.”

“Private Lives” tells the tale of a well-to-do couple who cannot live with or without each other. The play digs beneath the surface and studies the nature of relationships, stubbornness and the pitfalls of love, regardless of class.

The “Private Lives” experience will be unusual because L.A. Theatre Works is a touring radio theater company, which lends itself to an experience that audiences are probably not familiar with, Ashwander said. `Scaled-down sets, live sound effects and an emphasis on the spoken word can be expected from the company.

“We think it’s important to do a play because it’s an art form that is not being presented very much any more,” she said. “The spoken word is so important and we don’t want to lose that. These are treasures.”

The Princess received a grant from Alabama State Council on the Arts, Southern Arts Federation and National Endowment for the Arts to bring “Private Lives” to town.

L.A. Theatre Works has been the foremost radio theater company in the United States for two decades, and is broadcast on NPR, XM Satellite Radio, BBC, CBC, and Voice of America. LATW has performed live radio performances in Chicago, Washington, Boston, New York and Austin.

Along with her role on “NYPD Blue,” “Law & Order,” “CSI Miami,” “Oz,” and “The Guardian,” Meisle is a Tony-nominated stage actress.

Caffrey also had parts on “Diagnosis Murder,” “Alias,” “The Practice” and “Seinfeld.”

Other plays written by Coward include “Blithe Spirit,” “Present Laughter,” “Design for Living,” and “The Vortex.” Unlike some playwrights, he believed in theater solely for amusement’s sake —– and he deemed his plays “important” because “they had given a vast number of people a great deal of pleasure.

If you go:

What: Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” presented by L.A. Theatre Works

Where: Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts, 112 Second Ave. NE

When: Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007, 7: 30 p.m.

Cost:Reserved tickets are available for $25 to $40, with $25 discount tickets for students and teachers. Tickets are available at the Princess Theatre Box Office during weekdays at 340-1778 or online at www.princesstheatre.org

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